Stanford University’s New Alcohol Policy Will Not Do Enough To Prevent Future Brock Turners From Assaulting Women, Say Critics

Stanford University has enacted a new policy to restrict the use of alcohol on campus. All undergraduates living in undergraduate housing, including those who are also working toward a master’s degree, are prohibited from possessing “high-volume” containers of distilled liquors. Stanford is also prohibiting hard alcohol from being consumed at on-campus parties, although parties thrown by student organizations or residences in which only graduate students live are exempt, but only if the liquor is consumed in a mixed drink. Stanford’s new policy also restricts alcohol in the form of straight shots, no matter where on campus the liquor is being consumed. The only alcohol not restricted at undergraduate student parties thrown on campus is wine and beer.

Stanford News reports that “high-volume” containers are defined as those which contain 750 mL or more of hard alcohol, spirits, or distilled liquor. Stanford’s new policy defines hard alcohol as containing 20 percent or higher alcohol by volume (40 proof), and restricts the use of such beverages in both the common spaces and individual rooms of undergraduate student housing.

Stanford’s new policy restricting alcohol on campus was revealed in a letter sent on Monday, Aug. 22, by Vice-Provost for Student Affairs Greg Boardman to all undergraduates, whether new to campus or returning.

“I challenge you not to focus on the policy as something to be worked around. Instead, I ask you to bring your best selves to this endeavor, to consider the real concerns raised by your fellow students, and those articulated here, and to be a part of solving this problem. We must create a campus community that allows for alcohol to be a part of the social lives of some of our students, but not to define the social and communal lives of all of our students.”

Not only has Stanford laid out a new policy restricting the type of alcohol permitted in certain campus residences, but the university is also mandating that the beer and wine allowed for students of legal drinking age must be in their original store containers and must have been bought from an establishment legally licensed to sell liquor.

The new alcohol policies at Stanford are also aimed at reducing the number of stores near the university that sell hard alcohol. Officials say they believe that students forced to buy smaller sizes of alcohol in order to meet the new guidelines will ultimately be forced to buy less, because the smaller sizes are generally higher in price.

Critics of the new policy, who believe Stanford’s restrictions on alcohol are a result of the Brock Turner sex assault case, say it will not go far enough to prevent sexual assaults on campus. Former Stanford student Brock Turner, who was also a member of the university’s swim team, was found guilty in January 2015 of the sexual assault of a woman after both had been drinking on campus. Turner was arrested after two Stanford graduate students discovered him assaulting the woman outside of a fraternity and gave chase. The case gained national attention when Turner was sentenced to serve just six months by a judge.

USA Today spoke with a Washington, D.C., attorney who specializes in lawsuits against fraternities stemming from hazing deaths or injuries, as well as other cases. Douglas Fierberg believes the real issue, which is allowing fraternities to govern themselves, will not be solved with the new alcohol policies at Stanford. Although Fierberg says that fraternity houses are technically considered to be university housing, the university itself has no real authority over them.

“While this policy goes a long way to prohibit certain quantities of alcohol in housing, the Greek community is still not supervised like all other Stanford housing, so the idea that increased restrictions (are) going to solve the problem in the Greek community will never be better than its means of implementation. That same assumption has failed thousands of times across the country.”

Stanford law professor Michele Landis Dauber believes the university also needs to act decisively when students are found guilty of sexual assault by expelling them. She also said Stanford would do well to take a look at its “culture of entitlement – and sexual entitlement” among fraternity members and athletes. Speaking to USA Today, Dauber urged Stanford to not just restrict alcohol, but to also teach students about its dangers, especially “the role that alcohol actually plays in sexual assault.”

Dauber also fears that Stanford’s new policy to restrict alcohol at parties could make students turn to binge drinking in their residences prior to going to parties where only beer and wine can be served. She notes that if the new restrictions had been in place when Turner was assaulting the woman behind a dumpster, the crime would have occurred in a dorm room and the act would have never been witnessed.

The new alcohol policy at Stanford reaches beyond what is required of them by state law and is effective immediately. The new policies are the result of campus-wide discussions that occurred between faculty, staff, and students after both university President John Hennessy and Provost John Etchemendy asked students in March to begin thinking of ways to change the school’s campus-wide attitude toward alcohol. Although 92 percent of Stanford students voted against banning hard alcohol, Stanford decided to enact the new policies anyway.

[Photo by jejim/Getty Images]

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